Medjugorje Apparitional Occurrences: A Parapsychological and Spiritual Analysis
by Dr. James Paul Pandarakalam
Abstract: The Medjugorje apparitions are ‘live’ and active apparitional occurrences, and scientifically minded investigators have the opportunity to follow up these events. Voice phenomena observed during Marian apparitions have analogies with externally controlled RSPK activity, and visionary experiences involving RSSPK or RSPK-like activity may be instances of apparitions at the physical site. The voice extinction and sensory disconnection demonstrated in the Medjugorje percipients could be explained as probably due to psychokinetic-like activity of the apparition. Unlike in the generic apparitional experiences reported in the scientific literature of parapsychology, there is to and fro communication for extended period of time taking place between the percipients and the apparition at Medjugorje. This article is an evaluation of the Medjugorje events from a spiritual and parapsychological perspective.
Introduction Psychological experiences may be triggered by natural or man-made phenomena. An example of the former is tectonic-strain-induced luminosity sometimes misunderstood as apparitions. The fundamental question whether apparitions are subjective fantasies, or whether they reflect an objective reality, continue to pervade scientific circles. On the assumption that apparitional experiences are associated with shifts in consciousness, two suggestions to explain apparitional
experiences have been put forward. The first is that certain altered states of consciousness may instigate powerful, objective and physical effects in the environment. The second is that certain fluctuations in the environment may cause dramatic shifts in consciousness. Accordingly, it is hypothesized, an apparition may be the objective result of mind–matter interaction phenomena, or it may be the outcome of a subjective effect caused by external energies. Apparitions accompanied by controlled recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis (RSPK) present something of a problem apropos of these views.
Recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis ( RSPK) is a form of macro-PK and involving spontaneous physical effects that is inexplicable in terms of known physical energies, and that occur repeatedly over a period of time. The late Karles Osis(1980) commented that no psychiatrist had reported a hallucination by a patient that could open the windows of a psychiatric ward. Furthermore, manifestations attributable to discarnate agents are controlled, whereas those produced by a living agent are neither deliberately nor even consciously controlled. Apparitional occurrences that involve physical action powerfully suggests the involvement of an external agency. Dr Ian Stevenson (1972) has contributed to discussions within the field of RSPK with his attempt to identify the differences between the conduct and powers of living and discarnate intelligence. William Roll (2004) and Loyd Auerbach (2004) has also made useful suggestions.
Apparition at Physical Site
Visions that occur before RSPK manifestations take place are likely to be genuine visual apparitions of the discarnate personality manifesting at a physical site and visions that occur after RSPK occurrences may be explained as a form of secondary elaboration (Pandarakalam, 2004).
Collective visions + Externally controlled secondary RSPK or RSPK-like activity = Likelihood of visual apparition of a discarnate agent at physical site.
An apparitional experience (AE) does not have to be collective to receive the accolade of scientific approval, provided it is associated with the manifestation of some form of RSPK. But true apparitional experience can also occur without the accompaniment of RSPK. Apparitions of higher order (e.g. Marian apparitions) have been recognised to demonstrate unexplainable RSPK-like activity. An examination of Bijakovici-Medjugorje (Bosnia 1981 to date) occurrences have been attempted in the succeeding paragraphs in a background of currently available medical and para psychological information and certain spiritual aspects have also been considered.
Medjugorje In June 1981, six young people from the mountain village of Medjugorje, a small village in the heart of the western region of the former Yugoslavia (now Bosnia) reportedly encountered an apparition near the top of a rocky hill. The first apparition happened in the late afternoon on June 24, 1981. Mirjana who was staying with her grandmother during her holidays visited Ivanka and decided to go for a walk. After the walk, they were returning to the village and Ivanka happened to look toward a hill. A bright light illuminated the sky and there floating above the hill was the figure of a beautiful woman. She wanted to bring the attention of her friend but Mirjana ignored it and did not take it seriously. Ivanka, herself was not very certain that she saw something unusual and continued to walk with Mirjana back to the village (Cavar,2000).
Then they stopped in front of the house of one of their friends named Milka, Marija’s sister. Milka asked them to go with her to get the sheep and bring them home. So they turned around and started to walk back to the fields in front the hill known as Podbrdo where they saw the apparition with a child in her arms. They were reported to have kept staring in a perplexed state. In the meantime Vicka also arrived at the scene. Vicka had already seen Mirjana and Ivanka before and was afraid when they told her that they had seen an apparition. Vicka was seized by panic, turned around and started to run away. In a few minutes she was sitting on a stone fence frightened, disturbed and crying, but in a state of curiosity and willing to return. Then they were joined by their neighbours, Ivan Dragicevic, Ivan Ivankovic. It was now Ivan D who was running away and jumping over a stone fence frightened. The first experience lasted approximately thirty minutes and involved Ivanka Ivankovic, Mirjana Dragicevic, Vicka Ivankovic, Ivan Dragicevic, Ivan Ivankovic and Milka Pavlovic.
On the second day, the seers agreed to meet at the same place where the alleged apparitional experience occurred. When they arrived at the spot, Ivanka first saw the apparition and then Vicka and Mirjana, this time without the child and the experience was preceded by effulgence of bright light. On that day, Vicka had also invited Jackov and Marija. When they all gathered together, the apparition motioned them with her hand towards her. They ran through the thorn shrubs. On that day Ivan Ivankovic and Milka Pavlovic were replaced by Marija Pavlovic and Jackov Colo. Ivan Ivankovic and Milka Pavlovic who were present on the first day of apparitional occurrence, did not have the apparitional experience in spite of the fact they returned to the original apparitional site wishing to see her again. There were also 15 onlookers who observed them conversing with an invisible person. According to a report, Ivanka began to ask the lady about friends and relatives who had recently died and Mirjana asked for a sign to show everyone that the visions were real. The percipients stated that the lady consented and said she would return the next day. Since then, these percipients were having an apparitional experience on a daily basis. It was a collective experience involving six regular visionaries: Ivan, Ivanka, Jackov, Marija, Mirjana and Vicka. The visionaries have said that their experiences will continue until they have been given ten special messages each; Mirjana, Ivanka and Jackov have already received theirs, and no longer see daily apparitions.
The alleged apparition comes about in a very simple and spontaneous manner. When the apparitional occurrences used to take place in a collective manner as in the early periods, the percipients used to wait in prayerful contemplation. There was an anxious expression of expectancy on their faces. Then they all suddenly knelt down suddenly in reverence. They looked upwards in the same direction with tranquil and hopeful expressions. Their lips moved as if they were speaking but the sound of their speech could not be heard externally. Where their glances converge indicated the location of the alleged apparition at a point very close to them. During their alternating conversation with the alleged apparition, one could note varying facial expressions. In general the apparitional experience lasted one to three minutes and then the voices became audible again. Now a day, the apparitional experience happens most often singularly and privately. My first visit to Medjugorje was in 1985. I witnessed the annual apparitional experience of Mirjana in the last three years and five of her second day of the month apparition, the last being on 2nd October, 2010. These apparitional experiences are videotaped and accessible on you tube.
Medical Findings There were several official and unofficial commissions who investigated the Bijakovici-Medjugorje phenomenon. Chronometric research at 1/10 of a second, recorded on videotape clearly showed several synchronicities among the percipients. Rene Laurentin and Rupcic (1984) reported seven occurrences of synchronism during the apparitional experience (AE) suggesting objectivity, three voluntary and others probably involuntary. To this cluster of synchronism two other synchronisms were added viz., transient bodily fleeting tremor and post apparitional perplexity (Table, 1). Six of the synchronism is probably non-intentional as they appear to be involuntary and may go particularly in favor of objectivity.
Table 1: SynchronismsAs the AE commences, the visionaries kneel down together, usually simultaneously, although it was noticed that reaction times differ; usually Ivanka’s reflexes are the quickest- a voluntary behavioural pattern. The voices fade away simultaneously at the beginning of AE. The Voices return simultaneously when the visionaries say ‘who art in Heaven’. To those who asked why the first two words of the ‘Our Father’ had been omitted, the visionaries replied, Our Lady says Our Father, and we follow on’. The voices return practically at the same time, depending on the reaction time of the seers. They respond with synchronicity between 1/10 and 5/10 of a second. When they finish reciting the Father and the Glory be, the voices disappear once more. As the AE draws to a conclusion, the seers look up simultaneously in synchronicity at about 1/10 of a second, and they justify this movement explaining that ‘the Virgin Mary disappears upwards’. This is also defined a voluntary activity. As the alleged apparitional figure leaves one visionary, or more, utter more or less simultaneously the word ‘Ode’, which means ‘she is gone’. Most often this utterance came from Vicka or Jackov. This is also a voluntary action. The visionaries’ eye movements at the end of the AE correspond to the eye movements of a person looking at a real moving object, which is different from those of a person looking at an imaginary-moving object. Before the AE, Ivan and Marija’s eyeballs are mobile, as shown by the electro-oculogram taken simultaneously for both visionaries, yet, this movement ceases at the beginning of the AE, within one fifth of a second. This is not a voluntary reaction. The eyes of the visionaries resume simultaneously normal movement, again within one fifth of a second at the end of the AE. This is an involuntary reaction. Collective fleeting bodily tremor at the end of the AE. This observation is no more prominent as they have become used to the experience. Varying degrees of perplexity immediately after the AE, which is not prominent any more.
The French team headed by Professor Henri Joyeux from Montpellier employed modern equipment and expertise to examine the internal and external reactions of the Medjugorje percipients before, during and after the apparitional experience and conducted various medical tests from 24th March 1984 to 30th December 1984 (Laurentin & Joyeux, 1987). Their tests included the study of the synchronisation of their ocular, auditory, cardiac and cerebral reactions. They inferred that the object of observation is external to the perception and the percipients are responding to an external stimulus and not to an internal stimulus, and ruled out the possibility of external manipulation or mutual agreement between the seers (Laurentin &Joyeux, 1987). They simply arrived at the conclusion that the phenomenon surpasses modern science but did not particularly prove an apparitional occurrence. On the 24th June 2005, Professor Henri Joyeux repeated the neurophysiological tests in two of the visionaries, Ivan and Marija with a Parisian neurologist and the tests done in 1984 and June 2005 resulted in similar conclusions.
The French medical team (Laurentin & Joyeux, 1987) have reported both normal and altered physiological parameters. The medical teams conclude that there is partial and variable disconnection from the outside world at the time of the AE. Sensations travel in a normal manner to the brain of the Medjugorje seers, but the findings of evoked auditory potential tests and screening tests, show that the cerebral cortex does not perceive the transmission of the auditory and visual neuronal stimuli received from the surrounding environment. This indicates a disconnection located somewhere in the cortex, and it can be thought of as functional dualism. Medical tests with Medjugorje visionaries at the time of the AE point towards an objective and subjective or non-objective visionary experience.
An Italian team confirmed the French findings in 1985 and carried out a series of investigations in 1998. The tests were organised by Dr Marco Margenelli and Dr Giorgio Gangliardi and the research was carried out in four sessions. The first research was carried out on April 22-23 1998, at the Casa Incontri Cristiani in Capiago Intimiano. On this occasion Ivan Dragicevic Marija Pavlovic Lunetti and Vicka Ivankovic were examined. The second research was carried out from July 23-24, 1998 in Medjugorje and examined were Mirjana Soldo-Dragicevic, Vicka Ivankovic and Ivanka Elez-Ivankovic. The third research, only psycho-diagnostic was conducted by psychologist Lori Bradvica on Jakov Colo. The fourth psycho-physiological examination was conducted on Dec 11, 1998 with Marija Pavlovic. The team took complete case history including medical histories of the seers. They did MMPI, EPI, and MHQ; Tree tests, Person test, Raven Matrixes, Rorschach test, Valsecchi truth and lie detection test. The percipients were subjected to full neurological tests, computerised polygraph (skin electrical activity, peripheral cardiac capillary and heartbeat activities, and skeletal and diaphragmatic pneumo-graphy during the AE and during the mediated hypnotic recall of the same apparitional experiences. Their tests also included Holter’s arterial pressure dynamic registration, Holter’s electro-cardiaographic/respiratory dynamic registration, pupillary refelexes and blink tests, video take and photographic examinations.
The 1998- Italian investigations demonstrated that from the beginning of their apparitional experiences, the percipients do not exhibit any kind of clinical symptoms. They also noticed that the seers do not show any pathological symptoms like trance interference, dissociation states and loss of insight into their current reality. All of them showed varying degrees of stress related symptoms due to their current position as visionaries that involved exposure to excess internal and exterior stimuli. The psycho-physical investigation were carried out on four states of consciousness viz., waking state, hypnotically induced apparitional mental state, altered state of consciousness at the time of the alleged apparitional period and state of visualisation of mental images. Their results demonstrate that the apparitional phenomenology can be compared to the one from 1985 with somewhat less intensity (Laurentin, 1998).
One of the outstanding objective features of the alleged Medjugorje apparitional occurrence is a distinct vanishing of the voices of the percipients while they converse with the apparition. The French medical team with an impedanceometer has undertaken a rigorous examination of the visionaries’ distinctive voice activity, distinguished by unmistakable axiomatic articulation without phonation (Laurentin & Joyeux, 1987). Their tests revealed a number of significant findings. The instrument’s needle showed extensive movements of the seers’ larynx muscles while they recited the rosary before the AE happened, but as soon as the apparitional episode began and their voices became inaudible, each larynx stopped moving and the needle was still. During conversation with the apparition, the seers’ lips moved without phonation. As the voices returned, in the middle of the apparition, to recite the Lord’s Prayer – which, according to the visionaries, had been started by the Virgin – the needle moved again. Articulation without phonation occurred once more during the final phase of the AE, as the visionaries’ voices were replaced by silence, although their lips were moving. As the seers began to speak, at the end of the AE, the movements of the larynx resumed, showing that the vocal extinction experienced at the beginning of the AE was linked to the absence of movement of the larynx. Although the lips were moving quite normally, exhalation did not vibrate the vocal cords. Dr Lucia Cappello from Mostar described: “...Then the phase of acoustic black out begins: while their prayers were acoustically perceivable up to that moment, they cannot be heard therein, despite the fact that the youngsters keep on praying. That is, the acoustic effect of words is lost, even if the word effect is conserved, in that the youngster continues on moving their lips, or make faces according to their feelings of joy or sadness. The only sound that is perceivable in this phase is the lapping of their lips” (Frigerio et al, 1986).
The voice phenomenon reported in Marian apparitional occurrences has not been recorded in the RSPK literature. This was observed in France at Lourdes in 1856, at Fatima in Portugal in 1917, at Beauraing in Belgium in 1932, at Garabandal in Spain from 1961 to 1965, and also at Medjugorje in Bosnia from 1991 to the present. This phenomenon has analogies in the controlled type of RSPK and may be presumed as externally composed superior psychokinetic-like activity with a mystical quality. These phenomena become more readily explicable once a model of controlled RSPK is evolved for use in scientific analysis of them. Without the application of such a technique, they could be overlooked on account of the plethora of amateur psychiatric terminology applied to them.
Rene Laurentin, the French theologian who made an in-depth study of the eighteen apparitions at Lourdes confirms the selective inaudibility of Bernadette, the sole visionary there. In historical cases – for which, as we have seen, reporting lacks scientific discipline – discrepancies in the detail of events is to be expected. But the books describing the visions at Fatima record unanimously a different form of selective inaudibility that was noted with regard to the six apparitional experiences that took place there. There were three percipients at Fatima, of whom it was reported: “Lucia sees the Lady, speaks to her and hears her. Jacinta sees the Lady, hears her, but does not address her. Francisco sees the Lady, but neither hears nor speaks to her” (Johnston, 1980). From a parapsychological point of view, this may be termed “internal inaudibility” on the part of the visionaries: Jacinta and Francisco were silent, and Lucia spoke.
One of the witnesses of the events at Fatima confirmed the external inaudibility of the voices of the visionaries. Maria Carreira (Walsh, 1954) reported, “when the children started running to the tree we did that too … then we started to hear something. It sounded like ‘a high frequency voice’, but no one could understand a single word. It was like the sound of bees.”
The voice phenomenon has been thoroughly investigated in relation to the current apparitional occurrences at Medjugorje as described before. In the collective apparitions at Beauraing, where five percipients were involved, inaudibility was not recorded frequently; however, Father Schellinckx ( Sharkey and Debergh, 1973), who observed the apparitional experience closely, stated, “Little Gilbert moved her lips. After this I saw her, her head devoutly inclined, lost in the depths of prayer.” Voice phenomenon was also identified in the Garabandal apparitions (Suel &Miller, 1981).
Acoustic Regulation Three components of voice production are involved in the production of the “spoken word”. They are the voiced sound, resonance and articulation. The basic sound produced by vocal fold vibration is called “voiced sound”. This is frequently described as a “buzzy” sound. Voiced sound is amplified and modified by the vocal tract resonators namely the throat, mouth cavity, and nasal passages. It is the resonators that produce a person’s recognizable voice. The tongue, sift palate and lips are the vocal tract articulators which modify the voiced sound resulting in recognisable words. “Buzzy sound” has been reported to have heard in Fatima and Grabandal as well as by close observers at the Medjugorje apparitional site. Diaphragm is involved in the production of the voiced sound and the recording of the muscle movements of diaphragm showed the same counters as in a person that is speaking. In other words, voiced sound is produced at the time of the visionaries conversing with the apparition and articulation is also taking place but without the resonating part. The visionaries are recognising their voice but amplification of the voice is interfered. The visionaries themselves have admitted to be hearing ones own voices of verbal communication as normal during the AE, but with a surprise, why others cannot hear them. Video recordings and photos demonstrate that during certain periods of the AE, a number of the percipient converse together and hold different conversations simultaneously. During verbal communication, we have an auditory control of our voices, which in turn affect the speech movements including the movements of lips (Greene, 1980). This is one of the reasons why the lips movement of deaf and dumb people are different from normally speaking persons, which the former peoples, attempt speech movements. Even though the voices of Medjugorje visionaries are inaudible during their verbal communication with the apparition, their lip movements appear to be as if they have auditory control of their voices. This observation itself rules out manipulation and psychogenic aphonia. Critics of Medjugorje also argued ventriloquism as an alternative explanation but it is phonation without articulation where as the voice phenomenon in question is articulation without phonation.
If hallucination is perception in the absence of stimuli, negative hallucination is absence of perception in presence of stimuli. Medjugorje seers experience a negative hallucination while they see the apparition, an ideal requirement for an apparition to occur. The findings of evoked auditory potential tests and screening test show that cerebral cortex does not perceive the neuronal stimuli reaching from the immediate environment even though there is evidence that sensation travel in the normal manner to the brain. There is partial and variable sensory disconnection from the outside world and also selective sensory disconnection within the percipients: this could be due to the psychokinetic-like activity of the appearer. True apparitional experience involves psi activities from the percipient and the apparitional power
Not a Trance State
Medical studies have shown that the Medjugorje visionaries were only partially cut off from the sensory world and there is no evidence to suggest the occurrence of autohypnosis in relation to their experiences. Hypnosis is a state characterised by intensified attention and receptiveness, and increased responsiveness to an idea or set of ideas. When the individual is included in this mental state through their own effort, it is called self-hypnosis (alternatively authohypnosis); and when the mental state is achieved by a second person, it is called heterohypnosis. Self-hypnosis, like hallucination, is a word used by sceptics in connection with true apparitional experience. To counter this, in the Medjugorje visions there is no evidence of any intense concentration before the visionary experience. Likewise, the Medjugorje seers come out of the AE suddenly where as the subjects come out the trance state slowly. The apparition offers a gentle control on the apparitional experience of the visionaries but not controlled by the percipients.
Dr Stopar who subjected Marija to hypnosis found that there are no differences between her conscious account and her automatic account under hypnotic trance state (Laurentin&Joyeux, 1987). During an interview, Marija told me that she never underwent hypnosis but was interrogated by Dr Stopar. My inference is that as the popular image of hypnotic state is that it is a form of oblivion, Marija meant she did not have any intense experience while hypnotised by Dr Stopar when compared to her daily AE. In other words, her AE is a much more intense experience than hypnotic state. It is accepted that self-hypnotic and hallucinations do have some similarity to true AE, but that carries no implication that they are in any sense identical experiences. Significantly, the AE does not occur on the demand of the visionaries or the witnesses, and they are beyond the ordinary human logic of behaviour. A note worthy observation of the Italian psychological tests (Laurentin, 1998) was that hypnotically induced apparitional mental state in the seers did not cause the same phenomenology of their spontaneous AE suggesting that these apparitional experiences are not mental states of hypnotic trance.
Not Channelling or Mediumship
A psychic, channeller and medium are essentially “cognitive personalities” who tend to be more analytical than the other personality types. Medjugorje percipients are not such “subjective” personalities. A channel acts like a “receiver” who does not interpret the information given whereas a psychic is also obliged to interpret the information and both may be probably at different levels of channelling. Channelling does not necessarily involve a discarnate entity but can be any non-physical intelligence. They claim more energy transmission than structured knowledge. A Channel originally has probably an authentic contact with a non-physical intelligence, but as his fame and wealth grows; he becomes more egocentric, closed off to the higher realities and resort to trickery. Moreover, channel and medium do not see an objective reality in front of them whereas Medjugorje visionaries apparently encounter an objective reality. The visionaries have been consistent in their statements for a period of twenty-nine years: it would be extremely arduous to keep a false story going on from childhood or mid-teens for such a length of time without contradicting them. They have not diverged from the faith they have been preaching. Unlike mediums, the percipients of Mejugorje do not initiate their holotropic experience. It is true that information obtained through channelling can take the form of visions. In most cases of mediums or channelling, an aptitude for it manifests from childhood. The Medjugorje percipients have never demonstrated any such predisposition and they are a group of contrasting personalities. They are a diverse group: their ages vary and they are of both genders with a mixture of introvert and extrovert personality traits having different intellectual capacities and creative abilities.
Mental mediums notoriously display several bizarre physical movements before they initiate their trance state. For example, medium Leonard E. Piper demonstrated varying degrees of tremor in her trance state. One of the accounts state that Piper started in silence and in semi-darkness and after an interval of 5 to 15 minutes exhibited “small spasmodic convulsions” that ended in a small epileptic episode followed by stupor and heavy breathing, and then started talking (Leaf,1890). Apart from pre apparitional anxieties which are quite appropriate for anybody awaiting an unusual experience, the Medjugorje seers demonstrate no bizarre physical movements before or during and after the AE.
Uninitiated by the Percipients
The possibility of RSPK activity due to living agents has to be excluded before ascribing the RSPK phenomenon to non-physical agents. Collective apparitions cannot be explained away by invoking a telepathic hypothesis for apparitions and they are rarely psychopathological. The imagery in telepathic symbolic projection would be that of the percipient and not of an external agency. The view that these transcendental occurrences are a psychical phenomenon on the part of the percipients is not tenable, because – contrary to common expectations regarding Marian visionaries – the Medjugorje visionaries have neither demonstrated nor claimed any unusual psychical ability. In ESP- imagery and auto apparition due to the psychokinetic effects of living agents, different percipients may have quiet different experiences of the same event, depending on their own cognitive idiosyncrasies, prevailing moods, needs, concerns, environmental alterations and interference from the psi effects of witnesses. Percipients’ responses to an internal psychic stimulus would pass through a kind of psychological filtering system, consisting of their general conceptual framework, assumptions, and state of mind at the time.
An auto-apparitional experience would contain earthly elements frequently. But the consistency of the celestial visionary experiences of Medjugorje seers for 29 years rules out such a possibility. Such an image will not interact with living persons. The activity and sightings are random without any consciousness behind the scene as in the case of residual haunting. If it were a “quantum apparition” there is a greater possibility of it being photographed as in the rare incidence of apport formation in physical mediumship. Medjugorje apparitional experiences have been photographed more than million times and never the apparition has been truly photographed. The collective nature, the selectivity and the synchronicity of the voice phenomenon among the percipients rules out the possibility of psychokinesis on part of the visionaries. At Medjugorje all the six visionaries have demonstrated the voice phenomenon when they are having AE individually and collectively. So if the voice phenomenon were due to psychokinesis from the living percipient, all the six visionaries should be capable of such an unusual gift. However, it is hard to fathom the process by which they are doing it collectively and train themselves to practice such an extraordinary phenomenon. Voice phenomenon is selectively inaudible in the sense that the observers and the pilgrims’ voice productions are unaffected. Such a strict selectivity over a period of 29 years cannot be maintained if this phenomenon were due to psychokinesis from the part of a living agent. Moreover, it has never been reported in association with known cases of RSPK activity where living or discarnate agents are involved. The fact that the visionaries do not demonstrate it in non—apparitional circumstances also go against the theoretical possibility of psychokinesis from the part of the percipients.
An interesting observation would be that no psychically gifted people have been able to mimic the voice phenomenon in spite of the fact that Medjugorje has become a world famous arena for visits by psychically/spiritually gifted people. Above all else, unlike the RSPK due to living agents, visionary phenomenon dominates the entire picture and there is no physical disturbances. RSPK due to living agent is short lived whereas the Medjugorje events have reached a period of 29 years with daily visions. Further, eight percipients were involved initially as opposed to RSPK cases. Typically only one or two agents are involved in RSPK cases due to living agents and localised around fewer people. It is also noteworthy that in the voice phenomena only the percipients are affected by the RSPK activity and there is no other physical disturbance. However due to the living in RSPK cases, the agents are spared. The absence of E.E.G. abnormalities during AE also prove that the psychokinetic manifestations are not emanating from the visionaries. After 29 years of daily apparitional experiences, the percipients remain healthy.
Evidently the AE is not occurring at the demand of the percipients. In spite of their desire to see the apparition more often, and notwithstanding the insistence of other people that they should do so, they have never been able to provoke a visionary experience. Moreover, the observation that three of the percipients are deprived of daily apparitional experience after receiving the tenth message itself prove that their experiences are under the “will” of an external agency with a different logical system. RSPK experiences due to living agents, discarnate agents and due to geophysical causes in general are unnerving while the psychokinetic like experiences of Medjugorje are very gentle eventhough the percipients were initially frightened of the apparitional experience. When RSPK events occur due to living agents for a longer period, there is a theoretical possibility that such activation would become a conscious experience. After 29 years of AE, Medjugorje seers claim that they are only passive recipients of the visionary experiences.
High Grade Psychokinetic-like Phenomena As discussed in a preceding paragraph, visionary experience with RSPK activity strongly suggest the manifestation of apparition at the physical site. The present author would like to refer to the voice phenomenon as a Psychokinetic –like phenomenon. In heuristic terms, the selective inaudibility of the voices of the Marian visionaries as observed clearly at Medjugorje is like that of an externally controlled positive psychokinetic- like phenomenon, but it is certainly more than that. In other words, the vanishing of the voices of the percipients of Marian apparitions is an “externally controlled superior Paraphysical-like” phenomenon or a transcendental type of psychokinetic phenomenon. The collective apparitions at Medjugorje meet the criteria considered earlier, in that controlled paraphysical-like features have been a significant component of them. The frequently depicted “solar miracle” of Fatima may be an aerobic phenomenon. It might be hypothesised that cascading of superior psychokinetic-like activities from the part of the apparition caused local geophysical alterations, from which the light phenomenon ensued. Similar phenomena have been reported in the early periods of the Medjugorje apparitional occurrences.
The persistent voice phenomenon demonstrated by the Medjugorje visionaries, the partial sensory disconnection to the exterior world and the selective sensory disconnection within themselves seem likely to be manifestations of the superior psychokinetic-like powers of a mystical nature from the part of the apparition or combined with the PK activities of the percipients, which is evidence of a physical presence at the site.
Visions+ Selective inaudibility of the voices of percipients and other superior psychokinetic-like activities =Strong possibility of Marian Apparition at the physical site.
The medical observations discussed previously could be further clarified by the ESP-PK theory of apparition. According to this theory, the psychokinetic powers of the appearer and the ESP powers of the seer, results in the actual sighting of the apparition who is present at the physical site. The ESP powers of the percipients are activated by the psychokinetic activity of the appearer (Osis, 1980) and probably the hypothesis could be modified: not only the ESP powers but also the psychokinetic abilities of the percipients are augmented by the appearer.
The appearer is capable of psychically interacting with the physical reality, resulting in his images perceived by the seer through normal sensory channel. At the same time, the ESP powers of the percipient are activated and the self-images of the appearer, in turn, are perceivable through ESP. Thus, there are dual modes of perception. The apparition is physically seen as well as subjectively perceived. There is objective-external and subjective –internal perception which is paranormal perception (Table 2)
Table 2. Dual Modes of Perception
convergence of the gaze of the percipients as confirmed by video
recording. The simultaneity of the cessation of eyeball
movements as established by electro-oculography.
Articulating movements suggestive of conversation with an outside
agency. Behavior and facial expression suggestive of an
external reality in front of the visionaries. Squinting of
the eyes noted particularly during the apparitional experience of
simultaneous raising of the eyes of the percipients and heads as
the alleged apparition disappears upwards
The apparition at Medjugorje has taken the percipients forward in time through her predictions, and she has also regressed them in time by revealing her terrestrial memories of 2000 or so years ago (Bubalo.1987). A particular genetic combination determines the physical identity of a specific person, but the personal identity of the individual is composed of memories. The overt remembering of the apparition presents a sequence of earthly experiences that validate her existence, continuation and unique identity as mother of Christ.
Spiritual Analysis Both intelligent investigators and pious ones come to the conclusion that at Medjugorje they are at the site of a genuine apparitional manifestation. However, here more than at any other paranormal site, ruling out diabolical manifestations is to some extent a struggle. Parapsychologists are prone to confusion with generic apparitions, but theologians are wary of deception by diabolical powers. A few have openly expressed their concern. Only theistic parapsychologists believe in the existence of negative entities, which are subsumed under the term ‘unknown forces’. A cautious parapsychologist has to rule out spiritistic foul play before making a firm conclusion that the events are indeed manifestations of a Marian apparition. To achieve that they have to falsify two hypotheses: the discarnate spiritistic hypothesis and the unknown spirit world hypothesis (which includes negative entities).
Mediumship and spontaneous appearances are two probable spiritistic explanations that need to be eliminated. In spontaneous appearances verbal communication between apparition and visionary does not take place. Dr Ian Stevenson (1982) notes: ‘Even though the ghost of Hamlet’s father and some other ghosts of fiction communicate freely, the apparitions experienced in what seemed to be authentic cases are taciturn and rarely speak.’ Two-way verbal communication is reported only in Marian apparitions, or what may be termed high-order apparitions. At Medjugorje the visionaries communicate verbally with the apparition, but the voices of the visionaries are heard tailing off into silent and therefore private conversation. A distinct feature of the events is that the apparition is sited simultaneously at different places which are a considerable distance from each other, a circumstance that distinguishes what happens there from place-oriented discarnate spiritistic encounters.
We are restricted in our ability to understand the chicanery of non-angelic spirits, but we have some strong evidence that enables us to argue against the possibility that the phenomena are initiated by spiritistic apparitions. First and foremost, Christ is still the focus of worship in the local church of St James, even after twenty-nine years of reported apparitional occurrences. It remains St James’s Church, and has not been rededicated or become known as Gospa’s Church (Gospa is the Croatian name for the Virgin Mary). There has not been any reorientation of faith.
Negative entities are greedy by nature and not inclined to limit the number of visionaries to six, the size of the group at Medjugorje. Under their control, many more people would be likely to have shared in the visions by now. It is a paramount feature at Medjugorje that the visionaries have evidently been specifically chosen and that the apparition is decidedly selective. The utmost obedience of the visionaries to the apparition is a natural outcome of love and not a consequence of fear, all of which indicates an apparition of a higher order than a negative one.
Negative entities are subtle manipulators. When they are the perpetrators, the visionaries are entrapped within a network of lies. One way of excluding the involvement of negative entities in any manifestation of an apparition is to ascertain whether the visionaries and the primary informant are embroiled in lies. At Medjugorje there are no concerns on that score; there is not a single piece of evidence to suggest that those at the heart of the events there are lying. Many people who have visited the site began to believe in the existence of Satan only after learning what messages have been received there. That is perhaps because the apparition has issued cautions against the negative realm more than hundred times. Medjugorje has shaped devil awareness, and it would be entirely illogical to apportion the warnings made to occult forces. If such are involved, they have singularly failed in their mission .The Medjugorje messages are simple and have the ring of implicit biblical truth. If an unknown spirit world were empowering the communications, their content would be shifting and engendering confusion. There is a limit to dress the truth, but lies can be fabricated to an unlimited extent. Medjugorje story has been consistent over 29 years.
Assessment of pilgrims who travel to Medjugorje is in itself a testimony that eliminates an interpretation that encompasses an evil spiritistic influence there. Medjugorje has been visited by more than forty million people during the last twenty-nine years. That cohort includes highly regarded senior religious authorities and scientists. Each of these constitutes what may be termed a subjective litmus test, and the reports of these visitors reveal that they experience a renewal of faith, in some instances of a profound nature, and that the quality of their lives is enhanced by their pilgrimage. Apart from an early incomplete assessment from Mostar, no condemnation of Medjugorje has never been proclaimed by the religious hierarchy. It is acknowledged that these responses are subjective. Empiricism, or the acquisition of knowledge via the senses, that is of a subjective nature has to be differentiated from objective empiricism. Even when objective empiricism fails to provide proof of a paranormal observation, collective subjective assessments may be found to be valid. Ideally subjective and objective empiricism should be congruent with regard to mystical and paranormal phenomena. Marian apparitional experiences are not replicable but the Medjugorje apparition has been experienced at a number of sites on a significant number of occasions. Science is not a matter of a consensus of opinion; its basis is measurability and repeatability, the latter of which is not always a sine qua non for finding truth. In consideration of whether an apparition merits classification as of a higher order, subjective assessment is as trustworthy as objective empiricism.
As pointed out above, every Medjugorje pilgrim makes their own independent subjective assessment of their experience. For example, I met one pilgrim – a simple, illiterate lady – who sent her husband to Lourdes so that his visit to France was simultaneous with her own to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Her motivation was that if the Medjugorje experience were a spiritistic manifestation, any detrimental effect that might be generated by her presence there would be negated by her husband’s visit to Lourdes, an acknowledged and officially recognised venue for appearances of the Virgin Mary in the late nineteenth century. She also believed that she would be prevented from visiting Medjugorje if it were not a holy site. Hers is a naïve, personal assessment which I am recounting to draw attention to the fact that pilgrims tend to be cautious and aware of their responsibility to protect themselves from evil forces and perhaps from spiritual risks they take when going on pilgrimage to a site about which there are disparate views. The anecdote does not of course confirm the validity of the experience.
Pilgrimages to Medjugorje should be officially recognised as the most disciplined events of the kind that do not have a visible leader. The apparition reveals herself to Mirjana on the second day of every month, and I was present at the event on 2 October 2010. There were nearly a hundred thousand people in the village and I saw almost no law-enforcement officers in the streets. The crowd was self-disciplined and did not require the intervention of any official control. How could such a huge crowd remain orderly if it were present at a diabolical manifestation? Another positive feature is that many people repeat the pilgrimage, which would be unlikely were it a negative experience.
The consistent gentleness of the apparition is another positive feature that supports the argument against the spiritistic hypothesis. The events at Medjugorje are the least dramatic paranormal-cum-religious occurrences recorded in para-scientific literature.
Mirjana, an intelligent visionary, claims that once she had the visionary experience of an evil spirit, which tempted her to forsake her encounters with Our Lady. In my professional practice, I have discerned that patients who had both psychopathological hallucinatory experiences and paranormal visionary experiences are the most competent people to give a differentiated understanding of the two counterposed phenomena. It may be deduced from that evidence that Mirjana, who has had a visionary experience of an evil force as well as being a percipient of Marian apparitions, is someone who is supremely competent to offer others the assurance that she experiences heavenly visitations, having had the prescience to differentiate those from a negative manifestation. Father Svetuzar Kraljevic (1988) has recorded the following account of Mirjana’s encounter with the evil force, which took place while she awaited Our Lady in her own room:
‘I knelt down and had not yet made the sign of the cross, when suddenly a bright light flashed and a devil appeared … terrifying, dreadful and I did not know what he wanted. I realised I was growing weak and then I fainted. When I revived, he was still standing there, laughing. It seemed that he gave me a strange kind of strength so that I could almost accept him. He told me that I would be very beautiful and very happy and so on. However, I would have no need of the Madonna, he said, and no need for faith. ‘She has brought you nothing but suffering and difficulties’, he said. But he would give me everything beautiful, whatever I want. Then something in me, I don’t know what, if it was something conscious or something in my soul, told me, ‘No! No! No!’ Then I began to shake and feel just awful. Then he disappeared, and the Madonna appeared. When she appeared, my strength returned – as if she restored it to me. I felt normal again. Then the Madonna told me, ‘That was a trial; but it will not happen to you again.’ The most conclusive evidence of all is that the apparition herself has reaffirmed the existence of negative entities more than a hundred times at Medjugorje. There is no doubt of the impetus for the parishioners of St James’s Church to be at maximum alert against diabolical activity – and they are probably more aware of the risk than any other religious community in the world.
Theological perspectives on the identification of diabolical activity are to be respected in relation to the analysis of Marian apparitions. Monseigneur Farges’s words (Farges,2003)on the subject are illustrative:
‘The signs of diabolic intervention are well known. The devil’s deeds always carry with them at least some ridiculous, unseemly or coarse details; or even something opposed to faith and morals. If his vices were too obvious, his influences would soon be unmasked; they are therefore always disguised under more or less inoffensive appearances, even under deceitful traits of virtues and sanctity. He transforms himself at will into an angel of light. God occasionally allows him to assume the most majestic forms, such as those of Our Lord, the Blessed Virgin, or a saint. Nevertheless – for God could not otherwise permit it – the disguise, no matter how bold, is never complete, and he always betrays himself in some particulars which cannot escape an attentive and prudent observer. Furthermore, the works of the devil become very soon unmasked by evil results, for an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruits.’
Christian analysis is based on a biblical criterion: ‘By their fruits you shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?’ (Matthew 7: 16). Every tree is identified by its own fruits, and it is the view of many theologians that the spiritual fruits of Medjugorje have been nothing but good. The most obvious interpretation (applying Occam’s razor, that the simplest explanation is assumed to be the correct one) is that there is an ongoing manifestation of a biblical apparition of a higher order at a physical site. Because the events involve a visible sign, official church approval is of doubtful relevance and perhaps even redundant; the events themselves are proof enough.
All paranormal occurrences comprise a non-physical event and physical and social events. Though a Marian apparitional experience is essentially a transcendental phenomenon, only the physical events associated with the occurrence are accessible to scientific study. Hallucinations and psychological contagion emanating from belief, expectancy and possibly fraud are suggested by critics of Marian apparitions to be factors in their eventuation. Imitative, total and unconscious fraud have to be considered and may be features of alleged Marian apparitional occurrences. The theory that fraud is a candidate for the origin of the Medjugorje visions has been satisfactorily challenged (Bartulica, 1991). If they were a fraudulent phenomenon, the visionary group would have been dispersed under the suppression of the communist regime or by the disruptive effect of the hostilities in the Balkans. It is notable too that all cultic religious movements have a leader who orchestrates events, but at Medjugorje the spiritual movement lacks a human leader.
In true and pseudo-hallucinatory experiences onlookers note that the voices of percipients disappear. What the Medjugorje percipients themselves experience is a talking apparition with a purpose who is in objective space. The apparition is three-dimensional: it is an active vision, unlike a hallucinatory one. The apparition is engaged with the percipients and the meeting with the apparition is not mechanical. Even though she does not belong to our space–time dimension, she has inserted herself into our three-dimensional material world harmoniously. During my several visits to Medjugorje, I have noticed that the supernatural has blended pleasantly and naturally with the daily lives of the local people, and this is illustrative of a positive and healthy paranormal-cum-mystical phenomenon. Ivan, the first of the Medjugorje visionaries (mentioned earlier), readily brings into conversation the post-apparitional stress he experiences on exchanging the supernatural with the real world every day over a period of nearly thirty years.
The vanishing of the voices of Marian visionaries is an externally generated and controlled psychokinetic-like phenomenon: a transcendental type of psychokinetic activity. The term RSPK, when used to refer to cases involving discarnate agents, may be a misnomer as such a categorisation may delay the process of finding a convincing explanation (Broughton, 2002); however, the use of the term ‘RSPK-like activity’ is justifiable. Most RSPK cases may be explained by physical and psychological processes (Houran & Lange, 2001), yet there are cases recently investigated that defy such an explanation and support the survival hypothesis. RSPK-like activity with abundant visions is evidence of an apparition at the physical site of Medjugorje. The percipients are reported to be conversing with the apparition for prolonged periods in a silent manner. The terrestrial memories that the apparition recounts to them, which probably include verifiable details, point towards the validity of the Marian apparition there.
The transcendental dimension of AE cannot be explained, but it should not be denied. The percipients belong to the space–time dimension whereas the apparition belongs to a different time-scale. It may be conjectured that this is the transcendental duration that permits communication with the apparition by more than one percipient at the same time (Kordic, 1994). The percipients cannot specify the duration of their AE. The transcendental aspects of the Marian apparitional phenomenon are beyond the parameters of parapsychological research. Ostensibly an active apparition who has inserted herself harmoniously to our three-dimensional world is manifesting at Medjugorje.
Witness selectivity over a duration of twenty-nine years, an abundance of apparitions, unique and matchless voice phenomena, distinctly different presentations of the apparition’s terrestrial memories to the group of percipients, variable predictions of future events to different percipients, a visible sign predicted well in advance – all these argue against the super psi hypothesis. Those who believe in the validity of the experience at Medjugorje consider it as the ‘event of events’. They are justified if the apparitional experiences are proved to be true through the manifestation of the promised visible sign. Believers declare that postponing acceptance of Medjugorje and its messages as significant spiritual events until the physical manifestation of the confirmatory sign is like holding on to a promissory note that has no immediate financial value.
No funding and no conflicts of interests
Auerbach L. (2004) Haunting and Poltergeists. Oakland, CA: Ronin Publishing. Bartulica N. (1991). Medjugorje; Are the Seers Telling the Truth? A Psychiatrist’s Viewpoint. Chicago, LL Croatian Franciscan Press.
Broughton S. R. (2002). Book review on Hauntings and Poltergeists: Multidisciplinary perspectives. Journal of Scientific Exploration. Volume 16, No 2.p295
Bubalo J. (1987). A Thousand Encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary in Medjugorje. Illinois: Friends of Medjugorje.
Cavar S. (2000) The First Months of the Apparitions in Medjugorje. Medjugorje: Ziral
Connel J. T. (1990). Queen of the Cosmos. Orieans: Paraclete Press.
Frigerio L., Bianchi L., and Giacomo, M. (1986) Dossier Scientifico Su Medjugorje. Milan: ARPA.
Greene, M (1980) The Voices and its Disorders. London: Pitman Media.
Houran J. & Lange, R. ( 2001) Hauntings and Poltergeists: Multidisciplinary Perspectives. Jefferson, NC: MacFarland.
Johnston F. (1980) and Jones, M. Fatima: The Great Sign, p.48, Washington, NJ.07882: AMI Press.
Kraljevic S. (1988) The Apparition of Our Lady at Medjugorje. Nashville: St Francis Press.
Kordic I. (1994) The Apparitions of Medjugorje. Zagreb:Kresimir.
Laurentin R., and Rupcic, L. J, (1984). Is the Virgin Mary Appearing in Medjugorje? Washington : The Word Among Us Press.
Laurentin R. and Joyeux, H. (1987). Scientific and Medical Studies on the Apparitions at Medjugorje, Dublin, Mount Salus Press.
Laurentin R.(!998) Medjugorje Testament. Toronto: Ave Maria Press.
Leaf, W. (1890) A Record of Observations of Certain Phenomenon of Trance (3) Part ii Proceedings of the Society of Psychical Research, 6,558-646.
Osis K. (1980) Symposium: Apparitions, A New Model. Research in Parapsychology, pp. 1-7 London: The Scarecrow Press.
Pandarakalam J.P.(2006) Certain Parapsychological Aspects of the Visionary Experiences of Medjugorje’ Paranormal Review 38 April: 14-21,
Roll G. and Williams (2004) The Poltergeist. New York: Paraview.
Sharkey D. and Debergh J. (1973) Our Lady of Beauraing. St Meinard, Indiana: Abbey Press.
Stevenson I. (1972). Are Poltergeists dead or are they living? Journal of American Society for Psychical Research, Volume 66.
Stevenson I. (1970) Precognition of Disasters. American Society for Psychical Research, Volume 64. No.2.
Stevenson I. (1982) The Contributions of Apparitions to the Evidence for Survival. The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research. Volume 76.
Suel G. &Miller O., (1981). She Went in Haste to the Mountain (Three volumes). Cleveland, Ohio: St Joseph Publications.
Williams, W. T. (1947) Our Lady of Fatima. New York: Macmillan.
Reprint request to: Dr James Paul Pandarakalam,
5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Trust,
Department of psychiatry, Leigh Infirmary,
Leigh WN7 1HS, Greater Manchester, UK .